RobMacKillop wrote:What makes you all think Bach wrote his cello suites for a cello? Apparently not. According to a growing number of specialists he wrote them for the Violoncello Da Spalla.
I have researched this before, prompted by a brilliant performance of Suite 6 by a Japanese player at the National Centre for Early Music - put briefly:
Some persuasive argument has been made partuclarly in regard to the indeterminate language used to describe bowed instruments during the baroque period; "da spalla" refers to the technique, not the instrument so the claim is that composers simply left that bit off when indicating instrumentation.
Bach however is pretty clear in his indications - for instance, Cantatas, 6, 41, 49, 68, 85, 115, and 175 all call for the violoncello piccolo
. Interestingly, some of these parts were notated using the treble "G" clef - played by violinists rather than cellists.
The title pages of the early manuscripts of the cello suites give us:
Source A: "6 Suites a Violoncello Solo senza Basso"
Source B: "Sechs Suonaten pour le Viola de Basso"
Source C: Suiten und Preluden für der Violoncello"
Source D: "6 Suite a Violoncello Solo"
It has long been thought that suite 6 may have been intended for the violoncello piccolo although Anna Magdalena simply writes, "a cinque cordes" (a term never used by Bach); a couple of such instruments are listed in the inventory of Bach's belongings but otherwise evidence is pretty much circumstantial. There's certainly a chance that old Johnny used such an instrument in writing the suites of course - as a violinist it could have suited him much better than working with an actual cello. Against that idea we have Johann Christian describing his father composing away from any
For anyone interested in learning more Dmitry Badiarov (violin maker) has brought together a fair bit of information on nomenclature, surviving instruments etc. which will lead you to further sources.